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We are Thriving! Undergraduate Women in Engineering Student Project Teams

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jia G. Liang Kansas State University

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Jia Grace Liang is a faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership at Kansas State University (USA). Her research interests focus on school leadership, professional development and learning in STEM, equity for women and racial minorities, and leadership for community engagement. She holds a PhD from the University of Georgia in Educational Administration and Policy.

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Rick Evans Cornell University

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Sociolinguist and Director of the Engineering Communications Program in the College of Engineering at Cornell University

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Stacey E. Kulesza Kansas State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Stacey Kulesza is an assistant professor in the civil engineering department at Kansas State University. Dr. Kulesza teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in geotechnical engineering and is a licensed engineer in the state of Kansas.

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For more than two decades, female participation in undergraduate engineering programs has remained stuck at 20%. The research focus has been on women who either choose not to enroll or withdraw. We propose a change in focus towards women who are currently participating and thriving. These women are female undergraduate participants in extra-curricular engineering student project teams (ESPTs). Our aim is to learn more about those positive experiences as they are identified and described by the women themselves. We propose an innovative combination of qualitative research methods. We begin with sequenced semi-structured interviews focusing first on background and then their ESPT experience. Next, we employ photovoice, encouraging students to document through photographs and videos what they consider to be positive about ESPTs. And, during a follow-up interview, we ask them to assign meaning to those photographs and videos by answering questions associated with social action, the participants and their relationships, and the discourses needed for participation as well as any other mediational means necessary for performing those actions. To conclude, we present key recurring themes evident in the early data. Agency is the originating and continuing motivation. It is realized through confronting challenging problems, participating in “hands-on” doing in response, and producing tangible outcomes. Through involvement, these women experience community and understand both failure and commitment as opportunity and necessity, respectively. Finally, they experience becoming an engineer.

Liang, J. G., & Evans, R., & Kulesza, S. E. (2019, June), We are Thriving! Undergraduate Women in Engineering Student Project Teams Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33548

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